Rabiu Ali scored twice as former champions Kano Pillars beat Rivers United 2-0 in a rescheduled Nigeria Professional League Football Match Day 27 tie on Thursday.
First half ended scoreless. Hosts Pillars went ahead seven minutes after the break when Ali converted from the penalty spot after Amos Gyang Danladi was tripped inside the 18 yard box.
Ali, 36, added a second six minutes later when he finished substitute Hamza Tiya’s through pass.
Pillars went into the game without their in-form attacker Junior Lokosa who was serving suspension, paving the way for a rare start for former Under 17 attacker Nazifi Yahaya.
If his absence was felt in the first half, it didn’t matter in the end as the 2014 league champions steamrolled over their away-wearied opposition.
Rivers United manager Stanley Eguma gave full debuts to defender Semiu Liadi and Malian attacker Konate Abdoulaye as he went in a futile search for points that could have eased their relegation woes.
Ali’s performance will gladden the hearts of national team handlers who were at the stadium to watch the game which had three of their CHAN qualifier invitees in action – Ali, his teammate Jamiu Alimi and Rivers United’s Emeka Atuloma.
Victory over United lifts Pillars one spot on the NPFL log to 9th but with same number of points as the three teams ahead of them Lobi Stars, Ifeanyiubah and Nasarawa United.
Rivers United however remain one place above the drop zone ahead of their next league game against Katsina United in Port Harcourt on Monday.